A classification of glycosyl hydrolases based on amino acid sequence similarities

Biochem J. 1991 Dec 1;280 ( Pt 2)(Pt 2):309-16. doi: 10.1042/bj2800309.


The amino acid sequences of 301 glycosyl hydrolases and related enzymes have been compared. A total of 291 sequences corresponding to 39 EC entries could be classified into 35 families. Only ten sequences (less than 5% of the sample) could not be assigned to any family. With the sequences available for this analysis, 18 families were found to be monospecific (containing only one EC number) and 17 were found to be polyspecific (containing at least two EC numbers). Implications on the folding characteristics and mechanism of action of these enzymes and on the evolution of carbohydrate metabolism are discussed. With the steady increase in sequence and structural data, it is suggested that the enzyme classification system should perhaps be revised.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Glycoside Hydrolases / classification*
  • Glycoside Hydrolases / genetics
  • Hydrolases / classification*
  • Hydrolases / genetics
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Species Specificity
  • Terminology as Topic


  • Hydrolases
  • Glycoside Hydrolases